Monday, October 19, 2009

The “newbie” ride

One of the many things I like about the off season are newbie rides.  This is when my cycling friends and I hit the open road with folks who are just starting their journey into the world of cycling.  Newbies are always welcome to join us but they usually don’t because of concerns about the pace, distance, the amount of climbing, etc.  However, in the off season we are happy to cruise at their speed and help them become better cyclists.  That’s exactly what I did this Saturday. 

Pat, Mike and I, all experienced cyclists, are heading out with Rich, Dan and Dan’s son Brett. Rich and Dan have been riding for a while but it is only Brett’s 4th ride ever so I am anticipating a fairly mellow pace and route. Since it was Dan’s birthday ride he choose the route.

pine_flat_rd Of course, to become a better rider you need to push yourself.  The route Dan choose – Pine Flat.  Holy sh!t!  Are you kidding me?  Pine Flat scares most experienced riders and is legendary here in Sonoma County.  It is a 12-mile climb with a 20% wall at mile 11.  And Brett doesn’t even have a bike.  He’s borrowing Pat’s older road bike and is wearing running shoes to turn over the flat pedals. 

We meet at Pat’s and after a lot of fun banter we are off.  In Healdsburg, Dan gets a flat.  This is were the other joy of a newbie ride comes into play.  Watching them change a flat.  Dan starts by turning the bike upside down and of course his water bottles fall out and roll away.  Then, he starts to remove the tire while the wheel is still on the bike.  So Pat steps in and helps.  Dan pulls out the new tube, still in the box, from a huge saddle bag. After some fun with CO2 we are on the way.  A mile later, Dan flats again.  This time the change goes much more smoothly.  See, he’s learning already.

(Editor’s note:  I only poke fun at Dan’s tire changing experience because I did the exact same thing on my first rides and I am sure someone was around to poke a little fun at me.)

We are now seriously rolling in a nice little group.  The pace was nice and allowed for plenty of chit chat.  It also gave us time to educate them along the way.  How to ride a pace line.  Techniques for better shifting. And so on.

IMG_0051Finally, we reach the start of the climb.  Rich and Dan are both planning to go further then their previous attempt but do not anticipate making the top.  Brett, being the 15-year confident stud he is, has no doubt he’s making it all the way. Pat and I just smile knowing he has no idea what a 20% grade looks like.

Up and up we go.  At one point, Pat accelerates and Brett tries to go with him.  Pat sits up and lets Brett catch up and I lift my pace slowly so now it is the 3 of us.  Brett is riding very strong and is listening intently as Pat coaches him up the climb. We reach the meadow where it flattens out for a mile or so.  Now it’s time for the final push to the summit.

I had stopped to take some photos but I can see them up ahead.  Brett is still riding strong and Pat teaches him to weave in the 20% grade sections.  When I reach the top just behind them, Brett is ecstatic.  Not only did he make it, he passed 2 other cyclist on the way.  Remember, this is his 4th ride.

We teach him how to feather his brakes for the descent and keep things nice and slow.  On the way down we pick up Dan and we catch back up with Rich at the bottom.  They both met their goal of making it further up Pine Flat then before.  They are are both stunned that Brett made the summit.  We then ride back to Windsor at a relaxed pace and hit the local coffee shop.

IMG_0058 The joy in Brett’s experience is the real reason I like newbie rides.  It is the perfect reminder of why I enjoy cycling so much.  Sometimes it takes seeing a ride through the eyes of a newbie to open my own eyes to the joy cycling beings to my life.

One final note.  It was also very cool to hear a rider calling out “Dad” from time to time.  This was my first father-son ride and I found that very cool.  I also know that on Sunday, Brett and Dan went shopping for a new bike.


0 Comment(s):